Semiautomatic Corrections

Over the past few weeks we’ve discussed corrections that editors can make automatically with Microsoft Word’s Find and Replace feature. For more information, see these three issues of Editorium Update:

In addition, editors can save time by making “semiautomatic” corrections–in other words, by using Word’s Find feature to locate “indicators” of possible problems and then fixing those problems as needed. For example, the word “are” is such an indicator. If you use Word’s Find feature to locate occurrences of the word “are,” you’ll run into sentences like this one:

“The editors are making corrections in the manuscript.”

This can be edited to this:

“The editors are correcting the manuscript.”

Or maybe even to this:

“The editors correct the manuscript.”

In fact, any form of the verb “to be” (“be,” “are,” “was,” “were”) may indicate other problems (wordiness, passive voice, lack of a strong verb, unnecessary use of the present participle, and so on).

(Before I edited it, the previous sentence read, ” In fact, any forms of the verb ‘to be’ are possible indicators of other problems . . . ” See what I mean?)

Another indicator is the suffix “ly,” which can be used to find sentences like this one:

“He ran quickly down the street.”

Weak, weak, weak. How about “He bolted down the street” or “He charged down the street” or “He blasted down the street”? If you’re a writer, you’ll find this trick particularly useful.

Other indicators are the phrases “there is” and “there are,” particularly at the start of sentences. “There are three writers working on the project” can be edited to “Three writers work on the project.”

Next week I’ll try to provide more semiautomatic corrections. (If you already have your own list, *please* send it to me so I can share it with other subscribers: mailto:editor [at symbol] In the meantime, here’s a list (slightly edited by me) provided by Microsoft Word expert Steve Hudson. Thanks, Steve! Some of the items are for technical editing (“check,” “tick,” “up,” “down”). Most, though, can be used in any situation.








has been















details (replace with “information”)

check (replace with “set”)

tick (replace with “set”)

up (replace with “up arrow”)

down (replace with “down arrow”)

system (replace with something else if not being used generically)

say (replace with “show”)

description (replace with “information”)

explanation (replace with “information”)

communicate (replace with “say,” “tell,” or “talk”)

exponential (replace with “rapid”)

feedback (does it mean anything?)

fortuitous (replace with “lucky”)

input (does it mean anything?)

interface (replace with “connect)

paradigm (archetypal method? point of view? mindset?)

irony / ironic / ironically (implies the opposite of the literal sense)

linear (mathematical?)

synergy(increased energy through cooperative side-effects?)

and/or (rewrite to: … and … or … or both)

that (restrictive & defining)

which (if nonrestrictive explanatory, set off in commas)

who (must be used with people)



Several subscribers provided useful tips this week. Many thanks to them all!

Anne K. Bailey wrote about automatically replacing “%” with “percent”:

“I would suggest that it is preferable to have the replacement be ‘^spercent’ (putting a nonbreaking space bfore the word ‘percent’). This would ensure that nowhere in the text would ’75’ (or whatever number) be dangling at the end of one line with the word “percent” at the beginning of the next.

“In my opinion, the nonbreaking space is extremely underutilized.”

Where do *you* use nonbreaking spaces? Please let me know here: mailto:editor [at symbol]

Neil Hymans provided more information about the Window and Popup Menu keys on Microsoft-compatible keyboards:

“The two extra keys discussed recently can do much more than open the Start menu or simulate a right mouse click. When used in conjunction with a ‘key combination manager’ (such as the amazing–and *free*–Winkey from, they open up a world of possibilities for new hotkey combinations.

“Some examples: I use WIN+W to start Word, WIN+X to start Excel, and many others that suit my needs, secure in the knowledge that they aren’t conflicting with default key combinations of any other application.

Mike Brown wrote:

“You can use the Windows key for shortcut key combinations, but I find it most useful as OS shortcuts to useful functions.

“My favorite functions are Windows + M to minimize all open windows to the Taskbar, Windows + R to display the Run dialog box (I like to run batch files from the Run dialog box), Windows + F to open the Find dialog, and Windows + E to open an Explorer window.

“I use Macro Express (a program to create macros throughout the system or for any program), and I find the Windows key to be a great mnemonic aid for system-level macros.

“If you have the Microsoft Natural keyboard or Intellitype software installed, there are tons of other combos:


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